Parliament to get report on EU constitution
Ratification put off
Contrary to original plans, Parliament will not debate the ratification of the draft constitution of the European Union in the autumn. With the future of the whole constitution project somewhat uncertain, the government now plans instead to submit a report to Parliament on the content of the treaty.
A governmental committee decided on the matter on Wednesday after several EU countries had decided at the summit during the weekend to suspend the ratification of the constitution.
EU leaders are to decide during a pause lasting until early next year what to do about the treaty, which was rejected in the French and Dutch referendums.
The Finnish government also decided to freeze the ratification process. The reasoning is that there is no point in asking Parliament to ratify a lengthy and complicated document that is unlikely to ever take effect in its present form.
According to Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre), the report will be submitted to Parliament in the early part of the autumn session. It is to be a broad document presenting and analysing the proposed constitution and its possible impact, and comparing it with the present EU treaties.
Although the report is not to have the standing of legislation, Vanhanen hoped that it might be a "starting gun" for a livelier debate than before.
"This corresponds to the challenge set [at the EU summit], according to which broad debate is needed on the policies and missions of the EU", Vanhanen said on Wednesday.
In Vanhanen's view, the leaders of the EU countries are in no hurry to decide what happens to the constitution, because the EU can function on the basis of the old treaties, and can even take Bulgaria and Romania in as new members on that basis in 2007.
It is only in the next round of enlargement that the operations of EU bodies would become difficult without the constitutional reforms.
Vanhanen feels that during the time that the process is being kept on hold, the EU countries will either become more convinced that attempts should be made to ratify the constitution, or then they will "draw a different conclusion" and possibly abandon the entire project.
If the EU leaders choose the former course, the Finnish Parliament may end up debating the constitution itself at a later date.
"With this decision we wanted to give the treaty a possibility to live", he said.
Vanhanen himself favours passage of the constitution. He suggests that recent polls, according to which Finns would vote against the constitution if there were a referendum in this country, do not reflect the whole truth of Finnish attitudes toward the content of the treaty, because there has not yet been any detailed debate on the matter.
"This treaty is simply better from a Finnish point of view than the old treaties", Vanhanen noted.
Previously in HS International Edition:
HS poll: Finnish opponents of EU constitution outnumber supporters (20.6.2005)
Prime Minister: Finland will probably postpone ratification of EU constitution (17.6.2005)
Finland to proceed with EU constitution ratification process (3.6.2005)